New Issue Released

Volume 6, Issue 1 is now availble to read. Essays by Gillilian Haines, Bari Benjamin, and Jeanne Powell, among others.Vol_6_Issue_1.png

Irretrievable Breakdown

by Anya Liftig

Yellow piss snow was piled outside the window. Slushy puddles of ice pellets welled up on the corner. We had both given up the idea that there was anything romantic or charming about the layers of snow we trudged through. The weather was something to be endured, just another difficulty we put up with to live in this city, the greatest city in the world.

Inside, the radiator was turned up to broil, shriveling my nasal passages despite finding a formidable foe in the humidifier. Most mornings I woke up on a pillow splotched with flecks of red. My side of the bed was inches from the back window and when it got cold, I could feel the wind blow through the cracks around the frame. I tried any and all methods to seal it up—industrial plastic, caulking, construction foam, duct tape. I stuffed plastic grocery bags in the gaps between the panes, wadded up a years’ worth of white and red Target bags into the holes. I fought the cold with thin layers of Saran Wrap stretched taut over the dirty glass.

At least it was better than the last place I lived where, when it rained outside, it rained inside. There I had rigged up a grey plastic tarp over the bed, hoisted with a complex system of pulleys made of rope from the dollar store. Living in this city always meant taking matters into my own hands as far as repairs were concerned. When things went wrong, I fixed the offending article myself or I learned to live with it. This was the same method I used on the leaky pipes under the sink. I removed what looked like the guilty piece and trekked back through the snow to the hardware store. I used three rolls of duct tape to secure its pathetically incongruous fixture. I wrapped the whole thing in cut up towels and then wrapped those in another roll of duct tape. A fool-proof barrier. I could always fix things myself, even if they still looked more broken by the time I finished with them.

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Consecrated by Use

by Adrienne Pine

When my sisters and I were growing up, my mother collected S&H Green Stamps. She referred to them as her “mad money.” She got them every week at the store as a bonus for the money she spent on groceries. The stamps accumulated until there were so many that it was time for her to cash them in. Then we would hold a Green Stamps party, where my mother, my sisters, and I sat around the dining room table, each equipped with a stack of empty books to paste the stamps in and a bowl with a sponge sitting in a puddle of water.

The stamps came in perforated sheets. We separated the sheets of stamps at the perforations so they were size of the pages in the books—five stamps across and six stamps down. The backs of the stamps were coated with a glue that was activated when wet. The trick was not to wet the stamps too much—just enough to get the adhesive sticky but not enough to soak the stamps through.

It was pleasant work, sitting around the table, wetting the stamps on the sponges, and pasting them in the books, while our hands turned green from the dye, and Mom discussed with us what she was planning to buy. In this way she accumulated a blender, a steam iron, a toaster oven, an automatic “baconer,” and other useful objects. We loved to pore over the Green Stamps catalogue, calculating what she could buy, converting the amounts into what they would cost in dollars, and finding the best deals. One of my favorite items Mom bought was a three-tiered sewing box that cantilevered open. The exterior was white-and-blue wicker, the interior quilted blue satin. I thought it was beautiful, and I enjoyed helping Mom organize the spools of thread in different colors, embroidery scissors, tape measure, pin cushion, and thimble; the flat paper packets of sharp needles with eyes of different sizes; the little plastic boxes holding buttons, snaps, and hooks-and-eyes. Mom had been a home economics major at the University of Alabama, and she insisted that we all learn how to sew. I learned to sew but not to enjoy it, though I loved the accouterments and supplies.

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A Death in the Family

by Sarah Russell

It was 1963, and at age 19, I felt like the original American in Paris—cafés echoing Hemingway and Fitzgerald, dapper Frenchmen to flirt with, and classes at the Sorbonne when I remembered to go. I was living La Bohème on the Left Bank in a one bedroom, fifth floor walk-up I found with Helen, another American stray from Redlands, California.

These were not the plush digs of the 16th Arrondissement. The place had no hot water and little heat, but we kept reasonably warm if we wore sweaters now that November winds rattled the windows. We shared a toilet in the hall with seven other people who lived on our floor, and I showered once a week down the street at the public baths. I stepped over winos to visit the corner crêperie at midnight when I studied late and ignored the whispered obscenities of vagrants who followed me home. After I opened the heavy outer doors and crossed the deserted courtyard, I would yell up the stairs and hope someone would turn on the hall light to guide me to the top floor. The light only stayed on for two minutes, so I always arrived breathless, often stumbling up the last flight in the dark. 

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